I recently started working on a little side project called webtozip.com. It’s a simplified version of Simply Static, where you can add the URL and your email address and receive a static copy of the website as a ZIP file.
Table of Contents
How it started
The whole idea is born out of a problem some of the Simply Static users run into – their hosting provider or WordPress website wasn’t capable of running Simply Static. While I always try to keep the requirements for Simply Static as low as possible, there are some things required to run it:
- PHP 7.2 as a minimum
- cURL available
- WP-CRON is available (for large exports)
The problem is that some users want to use Simply Static as a one-time tool to convert their website into a static one and save it on their computer or host it on one of the available static hosting providers (Cloudflare Pages, Tiiny.host, Netlify..).
They especially want to use it for old websites that don’t get maintained regularly, and especially the requirement for PHP 7.2 is often a problem here as the website doesn’t work anymore if you upgrade.
A huge number of people also need something like Simply Static but do not use WordPress (Drupal, Joomla, PHP-Frameworks..).
How I built it:
I build the initial version as a weekend project. The website itself is built with WordPress, and the form where you add your website is built with React and communicates with a Rest API. The most complex task was converting Simply Static to an API-based solution. I looked into Slim Framework for this but ended up with a plain PHP version for now (converting that later).
Build in Public
I recently got into this whole Build in Public thing – besides the revenue share that doesn’t make much sense to me, I think is a great way to do marketing and keep in touch with real users of your service.
I want to start early with marketing on this project to validate the potential before diving too deep into a project that may or may not work as a business.
Start with Free
People get overwhelmed with tools and subscriptions these days. I wanted to have a working free version right from the beginning – no need for a payment, no need for an account – just a click, and you can check if it is something for or not.
I also wanted to make sure that I don’t send any spam e-mails or collect and resell any personal data (I think that’s more important than ever).
Here is what I came up with:
I tried to keep it simple but flexible enough for a couple of use cases. I also added a visual indicator of current projects in the queue to give people a realistic view of when they can expect the e-mail.
I’m using my personal account to push updates about that project regularly. I don’t have a huge following, and it just makes no sense to make it even harder to reach the right people by setting up another account for this project right now.
I added a link to webtozip.com to my bio, pushing updates to my followers and sticking the posts onto my profile:
I’m also trying to recommend the tool where appropriate and bring it into discussions about static sites, build in public projects, and the whole world of bootstrapping a business.
Thankfully I have a whole lot of experience in writing technical blog posts. That’s also the main marketing channel for the website you are currently on. I started by identifying four main topics that I should cover on the website that, over time (hopefully), bring the right visitors to the website.
- Where to host a static site
- Alternative to existing tools (like HTTrack)
- Convert CMS (like Drupal or WordPress) to a static site
- Static Tools for common use cases (like search, forms, and comments..)
Once I publish a new one, they get automatically added to the footer of my website:
I also automatically add a CTA at the bottom of each article to slowly build a mailing list for the potential pro version of the product. I want to see if there is a decent interest in the idea of having a more advanced version of the tool.
I already collected about 25 potential topics I can cover here, and I will try to publish almost all of them before January 2023 – let’s see how that will work out!
Other things planned
I want to launch webtozip.com on Product Hunt. The design may not be fancy enough right now, so this will take some time to prepare. I’m also not having a huge following on Product Hunt, so I may need some help from people to get it off the ground quickly.
I want to add the tool to the product listing of Indie Hackers soon. I love the community here, and I’ve been an active member for quite a long time.
I’m doing research about other potential directories and marketplaces to post my little web tool. I also asked my followers about that and got good feedback on where I should look (Reddit, WebDevTools..).
As I said, for now, it’s all things marketing for webtozip.com. I need to get a decent amount of traffic to the website, and I’m aiming for at least 20 static conversions per week with the free tool to justify the time involved in building the pro version.
What I want to achieve in the first three months of 2023
- 20-30 unique visits per day
- 2-3 static conversions per day
- at least 25 signups for the mailing list (pro version)
While this may not seem to be a lot, I try to plan realistically. I also love the dopamine hit if my plans are working out! 😁